Norton-in-Hales Railway 1870 – 1956
Norton-in-Hales station was built by the North Staffordshire Railway Co. and it stood on the Stoke to Market Drayton Line. The N.S.R. Co was nicknamed the ‘knotty’ because they adopted the Stafford knot as an emblem. This emblem was based on the badge of the de Stafford family and can be still seen on road signs today. In December 1865 a contract was approved by Parliament for work to begin on building the railway that would pass through Norton-in-Hales. The new railway line was to link the fertile agricultural district of North Shropshire to the highly populated Potteries. In January 1868 a local newspaper referring to Norton-in-Hales reported that “the quiet village has been uninterrupted by a year’s sojourn of the navvies located in it”. On Thursday 27th January 1870 the line from Silverdale to Market Drayton was inspected, the Stoke to Silverdale line already being open, and the line was declared satisfactory and the Directors announced it would open the following week.
On Tuesday 1st February 1870 the first public train ran from Stoke to Market Drayton, although the general public had little notice and found the opening fairly sudden, as it was thought that the line would not be ready for weeks and that work on the sidings would be completed before the opening. It was felt that the suddenness of the opening prevented some of the usual demonstrations of celebration; there were no flags waving, the engines were undecorated and the carriages were neither better nor worse than those normally supplied. There was however, a week later, a ball held to celebrate the event.
The Journey (taken from the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser Feb 5th 1870)
“The line is 12½ miles in length to Silverdale station. Starting from Drayton station as though going to Crewe, you pass the signals and then go off to the right by a sharp curve. The first part of the journey is through an open and slightly undulating country. Having run three miles the first station is reached at Norton-in-Hales where the respected rector has taken much interest in the welfare of the navvies employed on the work. The second station is only two-and-a-half miles from Norton, but the Knighton people are very much disappointed it is not one mile nearer. From Pipe Gate the railroad runs through a much more uneven country – it partakes in fact more of the nature of the country through the Potteries, and in summer many spots would be beautiful. Not least so is the part about Keele Road, the third station. This is surrounded with woods standing on steep hills; which make the situation quite picturesque. Two or three minutes ride from Keele Road brings the traveller to the nearest “spur” of the Potteries district at Silverdale. From this place it is three miles to Newcastle, and Stoke is two miles beyond that – making seventeen and a half to Stoke.”
How it came to change the area
Once the railway was opened the station served the locality with transportation of all kinds of goods especially for farmers and their commodities. There were facilities for the loading and unloading of cattle, cattle foods, coal and machinery. It was actually found that farmers could make more profit by sending their milk to London and other cities, than selling it locally. A special set of vehicles were put on the first passenger train for this purpose, these vehicles then being transferred to a London express train once they arrived in Stoke. Livestock being loaded at the station would have been a common sight before the coming of the motor car. The local halls around had their supplies of coal brought to the station, the coal wagon being put into a siding, from where it was transported by horse and cart to the various homes.
Norton-in-Hales soon became a popular location for country outings and Sunday School treats. During the Norton rectory museum’s hay-day, special trains were arranged for the Norton-in-Hales Annual Fete and Flower Show.
There were also football specials laid on a Saturday so that people could attend Stoke football matches. It was also possible at one time to travel to Hanley, see a theatre show and travel back to Norton-in-Hales by a late night train. Mother’s with perambulators could attend Market Drayton or Stoke with their babies, the prams being put in a big parcels van.
The Station Masters of Norton-in-Hales
Norton-in-Hales was a busy little station employing a Station Master, two porters and a booking clerk.
Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1871 Census
George Holbrook aged 32, b1839 Macclesfield, Cheshire – Railway Clerk in Charge
Emma Holbrook aged 24, b1847 Kidsgrove, Staffordshire
Julia Holbrook aged 2, b1869 Kenton, Staffordshire
Percival Hooley Holbrook aged 10months, b1869 Norton-in-Hales
Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1881 Census
James John Pye aged 31, b1850 Ledbury Hereford – Clerk Writing
Elizabeth Pye aged 28, b1853 Newcastle, Staffordshire
Frederick John Pye aged 12, b1869 Hanley, Staffordshire – Scholar
Albert Pye aged 9, b1872 Clifton, Derbyshire – Scholar
Charles Pye aged 4, b1877 Hanley, Staffordshire
John W Pye aged 11 months Hanley, Staffordshire
Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1891 Census
William E Fidler aged 49, b1842 Islington, London – Station Master – 1901 was Stationmaster at Trentham
Mary A Fidler aged 54, b1837 Islington, London
Adelaide Fidler aged 16, b1875 Stoke on Trent
Stanley Fidler aged 13, b1878 Stoke on Trent – Scholar
Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1901 Census
William Walton Head aged 37 b1864, Stoke on Trent – Station Master
Annie Walton (nee Mitchell) Wife aged 37, b1864 Newcastle, Staffordshire
Edgar Walton Son aged 8, b1893 Stoke on Trent
William Walton Son aged 6, b1895 Stoke on Trent
Elsie Walton Daughter aged 4, b1897 Stoke on Trent
Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1911 Census
William Walton Head aged 47 b1864, Stoke on Trent – Station Master
Annie Walton (nee Mitchell) Wife aged 47, b1864 Newcastle, Staffordshire
Edgar Walton Son aged 18, b1893 Stoke on Trent – Clerk
William Walton Son aged 16, b1895 Stoke on Trent – Clerk
Elsie Walton Daughter aged 14, b1897 Stoke on Trent
Stanley Tucker Nephew aged 11 b1900 Elland Yorkshire – School
William Walton, Station Master by Margaret Davies (nee Forster), Newcastle under Lyme
My Great Grandfather, William Walton was the Station Master at Norton- in- Hales between 1900 and 1917.
I only realised this fact after my retirement as I began to research my ancestry. As a child I often visited the village with my Grandmother, Elsie Walton and had listened to the lovely clock chimes coming from St Chad’s Church, not realising at the time that this village was where she grew up.
William was born in Penkhull , Stoke on Trent in 1863, son of John Walton, a pottery figure maker and Mary, a pottery paintress. At the age of sixteen William became a railway clerk at Stoke on Trent goods office. He met Annie Mitchell , also a paintress at a nearby china factory and they married at St. Peter’s Church, Stoke on Trent in 1891. When William was promoted to Station Master of Norton-in-Hales in 1900 they must have loved the move from industrial Stoke to such an idyllic rural location. Here, three children were born, Edgar, William and Elsie ( my Grandmother ). I have discovered that Norton-in-Hales was a Sunday School trip destination for many people from the Potteries along this branch line.
Since my Father died in November 2011, I have acquired lovely photographs of William and his family, his house, station and ticket office. I have also found a Church magazine from August 1917 which announced William’s death and the Rector, David Roberts wrote the following as a tribute to him:
” I am grieved to announce that Mr William Walton, Station House, passed away,
after a very short illness, on Monday, July 16th. During the seventeen years he
was station master at Norton, he won the respect and esteem of all who knew
him, by his unfailing courtesy and kindliness. He was deeply attached to the
Church and was a Sidesman for a number of years and he will be much missed
at the Services, and in the work of the Church.
Our deepest sympathy goes out to the sorrowing widow and the other members
of his family who mourn his loss; and we pray that God may help and comfort them
in their great sorrow. Such a sudden Home Call says to each one of us “Be ye also
ready for ye know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh”.
I remain, your sincere friend and Rector, DAVID ROBERTS
William died of a cerebral embolism and is buried in the small church yard. Annie died in 1935 and is buried with him. It must have been really difficult for her to leave the station house and go to live near to my Grandmother who had married Sam Forster, a miner, in Silverdale.
The early years of the 20th century were the busiest, there being thirteen trains daily from Stoke to Silverdale and five to Market Drayton.
Due to the popularisation of the motor car, in the late 1930’s the railway line was reduced to a single track. After World War II , passenger numbers dwindled even further, which meant there were only two trains daily from Stoke to Market Drayton.
In 1956 Norton-in-Hales station finally closed and the railway line upon which it stood was also closed to railway traffic at about the same time. In 1968 the line was taken up by contractors, with the metals going to Sheffield and the wooden sleepers to various places in the country, some of which were sold to local farmers.
The original station buildings however remain to this day as private homes.
Acknowledgements: Mr and Mrs D.W. Parton, Margaret Davies and Mr and Mrs S. Belfield. Many thanks for your assistance and contributions during my research for this article.